I read a lot of articles where game journalists/reviewers explain how game developers should handle the press and contact them. There are great tips in those articles and usually worth a read for every developer.. BUT! and it’s a big one, let me put some perspective on the marketing of a game from a small developer towards these journalists and reviewers.
The personal aspect
Most reviewers will tell you to keep thing personal, to show interest in them, contact them on twitter ,email, etc. First problem here is that most game sites only have a very ugly “contact us” form or single “tips @ us.com” email address. The reviews you find on the site usually have the name of the writer, but no way to contact them directly! I can only imagine this is because it would cause a lot of spam towards the writers, and secondly the gamesite it self want’s to keep the contacts and not have them leave the site when the writers leave.
Second big problem is, for smaller developers at least , you guys don’t really give a crap about our games! If it’s not the currently most hyped product or we are not capable of throwing money at the marketing to already have people talking about it, you guys in most cases don’t even respond to our messages.
Oh and finally, very frequently I have a direct contact at a game site, but 2 months later that person and the email address are gone..
So journalists: it works both ways, don’t just talk to the big PR companies representing the big milliondollar game companies, but also respond to those smaller developers working their asses off doing development, design, marketing, AND taking the time to hunt you down for just a little review or news post.. one of us is gonna come up with the next big thing, and you might be the one we thank for picking it up before it got hyped.
Many of the sites will also want promocodes for iPhone games automatically send to them with any news/tip/pr you offer them about the latest game. The problem here is : there are only 50 promocodes with every update of the game, so on releasing that means 50 promocodes to spread across a lot of sites and people that will be asking for it.
I know some of the bigger sites will ask for a promocode and then simply tell you: but we don’t know yet if we’ll use it or review your game. With the other side of the coin being, that if you don’t provide them a promocode your chances of getting some press from them drops even lower.
It often feels like we have to jump through hoops just to get a single article on our game out there.
For example, my latest game Meganoid 2 was released yesterday to iOS and is now available on both Android and iOS.. besides developing the game, drawing the game, updating the game, porting the game, I also promoted the game. The promotion took me more then a day of mailing sites, uploading the trailer video, responding to socialmedia messages and promocode requests and staying on top of the game.
Marketing is an interesting extra that comes with the job, but it’s also the most frustrating part of it. At release time you want everyone to talk about the game, so you NEED game sites to post about it, just asking for a couple of lines of text on the site with hopefully a link to the app store. It’s all about spreading the word and hoping it gets picked up.
Once people start talking about it, they will also start telling people what they think about the game.. that’s when the “pain” comes for a developer. This little thing you’ve been working on is finally grown up and out there and people are judging it.
So with the above in mind, imagine sending PR info and a promocode to a site like Toucharcade, Slide2Play, IGN, etc. and the guy reviewing your game is either not into this type of games, or simply has a bad hair day. His 5 minutes of looking at your game, which you’ve been working on for months, turns into something that boils down to:
This 5 minutes worth of “testing” are read by hundreds or thousands of gamers, forming their decision to not buy your game.
At the end of the day, all we can do is start work on the next game, and hope the next one will get picked up by the big sites, and not ignored by journalists just because we don’t know them by their first name or forgot to offer them coffee.